Baptism for the dead, vicarious baptism or proxy baptism today commonly refers to the religious practice of baptizing a person on behalf of one who is dead — a living person receiving the rite on behalf of a deceased person. In the practice of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Church, a living person acting as proxy is baptized by immersion on behalf of a deceased person of the same sex. After giving a short prayer, which includes the name of the deceased individual, the proxy is immersed briefly in the water then brought up again. Baptism for the dead is an ordinance of the church, performed only in temples, and is based on the belief that baptism is required for entry into the Kingdom of God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is the only major religion that baptizes the dead. They practice baptism for the dead "vicariously" or "by proxy" in their temples for anyone who did not receive these ordinances while living. Church’s teachings say that proxy baptisms do not automatically convert dead people to Mormonism but instead those rituals provide the deceased a choice in the afterlife to accept or reject the offer of baptism.
At least 20 Holocaust victims were post-mortem baptized and the grandparents of well-known figures like Donald Trump were among them. The church rules intended to restrict the ceremonies to a member’s ancestors, according to a researcher who has spent two decades monitoring the church’s massive genealogical database.
A former Mormon, Helen Radkey has been monitoring Mormon Church database for twenty years and she shared her discoveries with The Associated Press. This would certainly bring new scrutiny to a deeply misunderstood practice that has become a sensitive issue for the church.
Printouts and screenshots of Radkey’s latest research show that in the past five years, proxy baptisms were performed on at least 20 Holocaust victims.
They also were performed on Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe; the mother of Queen Elizabeth II; and grandparents of Kim Kardashian and Carrie Fisher and U.S. politicians Joe Biden, John McCain and Mike Pence.
Radkey said she found no evidence of ancestral ties to Mormons.
The church gave a statement to acknowledge the ceremonies violated its policy and said they would be invalidated, while also noting its created safeguards in recent years to improve compliance.
The ceremonies first drew public attention in the 1990s when it was discovered they were performed on a few hundred thousand Holocaust victims, which Jewish leaders condemned as grossly insensitive. According to Jewish genealogist Gary Mokotoff, the posthumous baptizing of Holocaust victims reopens Jewish wounds from being forced in the past to convert to Christianity or face death or deportation.
In 1995, after discussions with Mokotoff and other Jewish leaders, the LDS church established a rule barring baptisms of Holocaust victims except in rare cases where they were direct ancestors of Mormons. It also barred proxy baptisms on celebrities.
This Mormon practice should be changed because the deceased have no chance to decide if they want to be baptized. Maybe they don’t want to ‘enter into a covenant with God to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end.’
Photo Credits: The Reflectionary